Of Parrots and Bathrooms

Everyone needs their spot- a place of solitude where you can pray, relax, recharge. A “happy place”, if you will.

Willow’s “happy place” is our second floor guest bathroom.

When we brought Willow home, Mr. Awesome and I had few options of where to put the the 2 1/2 ft. x 2 1/2 ft. x 5 ft. cage that was to be her new abode, the only truly legitimate option being a wall adjoining the guest bathroom. We thought little of it at the time, but placing her there would prove to be both a blessing and a curse.

One of the challenges that faced us initially after bringing Willow home was how we would go about getting her to step up. She had not show a great deal of aggression towards us initially, but anyone who has been around an animal with a beak that size will sympathize with the fact that we were a bit cautious in our overtures, and I prayed she wouldn’t maul us too badly. But I need not have been so concerned.

As Mr. Awesome and I made our trips in and out of the guest bathroom, we noticed a marked transformation in our new feathered charge. On the opening of the bathroom door, Willow’s eyes would light up and she craned her neck to get a better view of what, for all we could tell, appeared to be a wondrous and amazing thing in her sight. Noticing her marked interest, I offered her my hand and asked if she wanted to have a look. She stepped up eagerly.

This was a victory. Previous to this moment, most of Willow’s stepping up had been out of necessity- she flew off her cage and needed to go back, she fell, etc. But now she was stepping up willingly to do something that interested her. Thus, that wonderful moment occurred when a bird realizes human hands are useful for transportation purposes and good things happen when you step up.

bath3As we entered the bathroom, all glowing with incandescent light, Willow looked and gawked to her heart’s content. Her intense interest in seeing different things pleased me greatly, as I believe she spent a good deal of her previous life in her cage. Eventually I was able to set her on the sink top, and she had a grand time tapping the porcelain with her beak and tugging on the hand towel hanging nearby. Her curiosity eventually led me to open the linen closet and let her have a look inside, which she found immensely interesting. I should have known I was in for trouble when I started having issues with getting her back out of said closet.

Over the course of a few days I let Willow down to have a walk around the bathroom floor. It wasn’t long before she waddled behind the toilet, and that’s when all bets were off.

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When asking myself why my African grey was so awestruck by our fairly boring guest bathroom, I came to the conclusion that, with it being an interior room with no windows and lots of nooks and crannies, it probably looked like prime real estate for nesting. My theory gained further credence when I realized she would happily squat behind the trash can for as long as I was willing to let her. To a ten to fifteen-year-old parrot whose biological clock is no doubt ticking, our guest bathroom must look like paradise.

But the honeymoon couldn’t last. Considering the situation, it didn’t surprise me too much when Willow started getting very protective of her spot. After a few charges, strikes, and quickly returning her to her cage, I decided it might be best if the bathroom became off limits.

The thing about parrots though, is they’re agonizingly persistent.

 

It didn’t take long for Willow to start climbing down off her cage and barging in the bathroom whenever she felt like it. This makes for tricky morning routines as we try to medicate the budgies and give everyone clean water, not to mention the fact that it’s hard to do your business when you hear the click-click-click of little birdy feet outside the door and a black beak trying to chew its way in.

bath4For a while I thought we had an adequate compromise as Mr. Awesome (aka “Daddy”) would put Willow on his shoulder as he went through the morning preparations in the bathroom, and again when they were repeated at night. A shaky truce reigned for a few weeks, but then I caved.

I started letting her roam about the bathroom again, and things seemed to be going really well for a while. She pleasantly sat behind the trashcan in her spot and didn’t seem to be harming anything. She even quelled her anger and started stepping up when asked to go back to her cage. Everything was going smoothly, until the party she had when we were away.

Prior to this incident, I had been able to distract her from chewing by strategically placing rolled up towels along the places she seemed most interested in devastating, but after her weekend rampage, I fear there is no going back. I’ve tried the rolled towel trick, but as Mr. Awesome pointed out, no matter how much we discourage her, it is very likely that she will just find something else to chew. And it makes sense. That’s just what you do when you are trying to renovate a nice nest hole.

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And so the battle ensues. I love the idea of Willow having an area to enjoy away from her cage, and I had hoped the bathroom would prove to be one such place. I mean, if she has an “accident” at least the linoleum floor is easy to sanitize. But I suppose it isn’t too bad if we have to try something else. After all, it’s rather disconcerting being stared down by a cantankerous grey face every time you want to throw away a tissue.

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Hanging On

When the phone rang Wednesday afternoon and the woman on the other end asked if she could speak with me, I responded,

“This is she.”

“This is So-and-So with Such-and-Such Animal Clinic. Arthur’s chlamydia test results came back and they’re negative”

“Oh praise God! Thank you.”

“Have a nice day.”

“You too.”

“Bye.”

Not an exact quote, but you get the idea. After I hung up I felt wobbly and a little ill. I don’t think I quite realized how much waiting to see if we were all infected with psittacosis was burdening my emotions or how much relief that one bit of news would bring. Nearly to the point of breaking, I’d prayed for something good to happen that day. Jesus answered.

Few things in life make you feel like a clumsy buffoon as does having a sick budgie in the house who needs a daily dose of antibiotics. You towel him as best you can, worried you’ll break him, smother him, or stress him to death. You hold him with one hand while in the other you finagle a syringe which you have to use to gently pry open the microscopic beak he insists on clamping shut. When you finally do get an open window, you hope your reflexes are quick enough, aim, and fire. Some of it makes it in and some of it just oozes down his little face, and as you set him back into his makeshift hospital room, exhausted and weak, you feel rather like a brontosaurus doing brain surgery.

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Mr. Awesome chose to name him Arthur because he was so brave when we brought him home. Over the last week he has lived up to his name. There were times I was certain he wasn’t going to make it through the night and watched as my husband cradled his little, limp body in his hand. But each morning Arthur would still be there, hanging on. We realized Wednesday evening that I had been measuring incorrectly and giving him too much of the antibiotic, something I should have known, should have erred on the side of caution. Little can make you feel so low as to realize you’ve been hurting the very thing you are trying to help.

It’s been a long week, and I thank Jesus for pulling us through it. In reflection it makes me thankful for so much. Thankful Arthur is still here. Thankful the other birds don’t seem to have caught what he has. Thankful for a husband with a big heart and gentle hands who has compassion for tiny birds. Thankful for getting to see a few rays of sun peaking out from behind proverbial clouds.

Thankful Jesus keeps us hanging on.

Human Error

Mr. Awesome and I went to visit his mother and stepdad on the shores of Lake Michigan over the weekend. We had a lovely time: did a little shopping, had ice cream, and watched the sunset on the lake. Sunday we were able to attend the church Mr. Awesome’s grandmother called home for many years and Mr. Awesome got to go fishing with his uncle and stepdad. It was a fabulous 30 hours of relaxation.

As we pulled into our driveway yesterday evening, I mentally prepared myself for what would meet us bird-wise when we walked through the door and climbed the stairs. No doubt they would all be good and ready to come out of their cages and quite happy to see us.

What I found was frightening.

As I made my way up the stairs the first thing I noticed was that there was a light on. If we are gone more than a few hours I leave the lights off and the curtains open so the birds can have some darkness when the sun goes down. I was sure I had turned that light off. I always turned that light off. Well that’s weird, I thought. Guess we must’ve forgot. Oh well, no worries.

But then I rounded the corner and looked into Willow’s cage. I couldn’t find her. For half a second I thought my eyes were just having trouble focusing in the dim light. Then I began to worry I was going to find her on the bottom of the cage, dead, struck down by some sudden or unnoticed ailment. Then my eyes moved to the top of the cage…

There she was, perched in her usual place, ruffling her feathers and giving me her best “It’s about time you lot showed up!” face. The cage door was wide open, and there were mounds of parrot doo on the nearby bathroom floor.

My stunned brain swirled and tumbled to find an explanation for what I was looking at. A number of possibilities presented themselves in split second increments to my addled mind. Landing on one I turned to Mr. Awesome (who had followed me up the stairs) and asked,

“Who’s in our house!?”

Mr. Awesome looked a bit quizzical.

“Check the doors!” I exclaimed, and pushed past him to inspect all points of entry.

I’ve watched plenty of true crime and fake crime television programs in my day, so I knew what had happened. Clearly, some deranged psycho had broken into our home, turned on the hall light, and let just one of the birds out. They were no doubt waiting in a closet with an ax to dispatch us in our sleep.

I raced around the condo checking every door to make sure it was secure. All locked! The fiend must have slithered through the basement window. Nope, that was locked too.

I returned to Mr. Awesome and the scene of the crime.

“I have a hard time believing someone would break into our house, let the bird out, and not take anything.” he pointed out sagely. Once again I ran off. My jewelry was still there. We hadn’t noticed anything missing. Not a robbery then.

I padded back to the crime scene and began to rethink things. If a crazed, parrot-loving psychopath hadn’t snuck into our home and let Willow out of her cage… then she must have escaped! I stared at her in awe, considering what kind of genius, feathered Houdini our bird must be to have figured out how to manipulate the latch on the cage door AND swing the safety catch at the same time.

“I think it’s much more likely you just didn’t latch the door properly, or got distracted in getting everything ready and forgot to shut it all the way.” repeated Mr. Awesome, or something to that effect.

How annoying that he couldn’t see we had a bird prodigy. Me forget to lock the door? How could I be that stupid? How could I miss something like that? Put Them In Their Cages When You Are Going To Be Gone For A While was the first subject of Parrot Owning 101.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18

But as I gazed at the piles of poop and shredded trim in our guest bathroom, I finally had to concede that at some point in my haste to get on the road, I had neglected to latch Willow’s door, the result being she had quite the party while we were away. Heartily displeased with my own stupidity, I thanked the Lord that it hadn’t been worse. Willow was fine, the budgies were still cozy in their cages, no electrical cords had been gnawed on, and the bathroom trim could always be replaced. Humbled and flabbergasted at the fallibility of my own mind, I grabbed the vinegar spray and broom and started cleaning up.

And so boys and girls, what’s the moral of today’s story? Double and triple check your animals before you leave the house, and don’t rely on your memory to serve you properly in these situations. I think in future Mr. Awesome and I need to create a buddy system: I check, you check. Two sets of eyes are better than one.

I suppose there is one small consolation to this unpleasant event. At least, while we were away, Willow wasn’t bored.

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A Little Visitor

Mr. Awesome and I live in the city. He was in the final stages of purchasing the condo when we met.

For the majority of my life I’ve lived either in suburbia or what you might call rural suburbia. Smaller towns, some with surrounding countryside. You get the picture.

If you had told me years ago that I would one day be living just off of one of the major roads of (what I consider to be) a good sized Midwestern city, I would have either laughed or despaired.

But Mr. Awesome is Mr. Awesome for a reason, and when he chose a nest, he chose well.

We live in an urban oasis. I’m within a couple miles of just about every store, restaurant, and office I could possibly need, yet I can look out our windows and see what you see above. And we get plenty of wildlife.

I opened the blinds in our guest room this morning to see this little guy resting by the stream:

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He stayed for about an hour and a half, but Mom must have come to fetch him, as there is no sign of him except the imprint left in the leaves, and the little bit of joy left on my morning. God truly can use the littlest things to put a smile on your face, brighten up your day, and remind you that He is on His throne.

Words of Wisdom

The church I called home before Mr. Awesome and I married has a little tradition.

Each Sunday the congregation is asked if there are any birthdays or anniversaries. If your birthday or anniversary happens to fall on the preceding or coming week, you are sung to by said congregation as you go up to the front of the church and place a dollar or two in a plastic church shaped bank. The pastor then asks you to offer a few words of wisdom.

For years I watched as couples took the pulpit, offering advice on what they had learned over the tenure of their marriages. Some cracked jokes. Some made your eyes mist over. Many expressed the great need for patience with one another. Some testified to God’s goodness in leading them through pain, addiction, and loss, and some quoted Churchill (“Never, never, never give up”).

For years I wondered when it would be me up there with Mr. Right.

Unfortunately, our first anniversary (June 1) came and went without our being able to put a dollar or two in the miniature plastic church. But I’ve been thinking about what I might say if given the chance, and if given the chance, I think I might say two things:

First, let God choose your spouse. Marriage is challenging enough without wondering if you picked the right one. I can’t say how grateful I am for God leading me to Mr. Awesome, and for all of the confirmations He sprinkled throughout our courting days. Waiting on God’s timing was hardly easy, but it was more than worth it.

And second, I would read this:

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Luke 6:31 (NIV)

Before I got married, I don’t think I truly realized the infinite value of Christ’s statement here. Sure, it was something that popped into my head from time to time in response to a an unkind thought I’d had, or viscous word I’d uttered. But I think I realized its importance more fully in the first months of our marriage than ever before.

You see, Luke 6:31 is a brilliant litmus test for selfishness.

If I found myself getting worked up about something, or getting testy and disgruntled, it helped to stop and ask myself, how would I feel if Mr. Awesome was doing this to me? How would I feel if he said such-and-such to me? How would I respond if he said he didn’t want to do X? What would I think if he said he was going to do Y?

More often than not, the answer was that I really wouldn’t like it very much. So why should I act that way towards him?

I don’t remember Luke 6:31 as often as I should, but I believe the more often I do, the better wife I will be.

Those would be the words of wisdom I would offer.

 

Anniversary Trip Find: Vintage Noritake China

Purchasing fine china was never high on my to do list when Mr. Awesome and I got married. Acquiring a nice, sturdy set of Corelle dishes I was unlikely to break and wouldn’t take up much room in our kitchen cabinets was much more prominent on the list, and something my mother very kindly checked off last Christmas. That said, I found myself somewhat befuddled as Mr. Awesome and I speed walked back to our car from one of the many lovely antique shops in Marshall, Michigan to pick up a blue plastic tub of vintage china.

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Noritake “Althea” pattern c. 1933

It became apparent over our anniversary trip that I can actually take Mr. Awesome into antique shops. We weren’t in the above mentioned shop long before he found some small figurines that might work well for some of his games. While he looked through the little bags of soldiers and wizards, I browsed the rest of the store, not finding much that caught my eye. We both went to the lower level of the store and looked around, but nothing there either.

As we came back up the stairs I happened to glance into a large plastic tub with some plates in it.

“That’s pretty…”

The shop’s owner came over, and before I knew it I was agreeing to buy a fair amount of “vintage” plates made by a Japanese company. I knew nothing about the company and nothing about china, just what the tag in the tub said:

ViNTAge

NoRiTAKe ChiNA

“1933” ALTheA

$100.00 SET

We didn’t pay $100 for the set, which turned out to include twelve dinner plates, eleven dessert/salad plates, twelve saucers, seven cups, a serving bowl, a “casserole dish” (as the shop keeper called it), and a large serving platter.

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After getting back to our room at the bed & breakfast, I looked up Noritake China on my phone, and was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered. Far from having just bought cheap, low grade china from some unknown company, Noritake is still very much in business and, from what I could tell, well respected for their products with their vintage pieces sought after by collectors. I was also very happy to discover that the 1933 date seemed to be correct.

After Mr. Awesome and I got home, I washed the china as gently as I could and stacked it in a kitchen cabinet, which seemed sad and a bit of a waste. What a pity to hide something so pretty. Still, we hardly have room for the traditional china cupboard. Nothing to do but wait, I suppose.

Next day I started rooting around the internet for plate display ideas and came across some very appealing wall arrangements. Inspired, I went and grabbed the three scrolly iron plate holders Mr. Awesome and I used at our wedding reception. I took down the framed wall art and two candle sconces that were hanging in our dining room and hung the three plate holders in the nail holes that were left behind. I put two dinner plates on either side and the serving platter in the middle. It looked good, but needed more.

After a trip to Hobby Lobby, some praying (Please, Lord, help me make this look good), measuring, and a few screws, I stood back and saw this:

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I ended up purchasing two more of the scrolly iron holders, and some of the cheap wire hangers to hang the smaller plates. The cup holders were actually candle sconces I’ve had for years that were laying around in the garage.

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All in all, I’m super pleased with how it turned out, and I’m so glad that I can gawk at my anniversary souvenirs as much as I like without having to pull them out of a kitchen cabinet.

Anniversary Weekend at the National House Inn: Part 2

I spent nearly two months praying for excellent weather on our special weekend, and God certainly gave it to us. It was low 80s and sunny every day except for some rain the morning we left. Thank You Lord!

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The National House Inn has several rooms, each with their own name and decor. Mr. Awesome and I stayed in the Charles T. Gorham room that overlooks the Brooks Memorial Fountain and the traffic circle. During the day there was quite a bit of traffic noise, but it quieted down at night. Add to that the fact that we live in an urban area and the traffic didn’t bother us much at all.

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Gorham had high ceilings, three big, beautiful windows, and some lovely furnishings.

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IMG_0385This enormous wardrobe must have been nine or ten feet high, but unfortunately as many noted in the room’s guest book, it did not lead to Narnia.

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The little guest book was enjoyable to page through. We were hardly the first couple to celebrate our anniversary in the Gorham room. If I remember correctly, others have held their 1st, 33rd, 53rd, and 56th anniversaries in this room.

The dining room was light and airy, brimming with history. Each window you looked out framed another old house, perhaps not as old as the Inn but old enough to retain a peaceful sense of life slowing down to be enjoyed.

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 And what of breakfast? It was delicious.

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Each morning we had a choice of an egg dish, hard boiled eggs, cereal, fruit, a sweet pastry, toast, and freshly made waffles. Orange juice, water, coffee, and tea were there for the taking.

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The egg dish was very good, “exploding with flavor” as one guest put it. The lemon bread pictured about was fantastic, and the inn keeper very kindly gave me the recipe to take home. I’m also fairly sure the orange juice was fresh squeezed.

Besides breakfast, the Inn also served lemonade, iced tea, cookies, crackers, and cheese spread from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Homemade biscotti was always available, and if you wandered down to the entry in the evenings you could find popcorn.

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All in all, our experience at the National House Inn was fantastic. The atmosphere was peaceful, helping you forget everyday worries and just slow down to enjoy each breath you take. I doubt Mr. Awesome and I could have found a more romantic place to spend our first anniversary, and I’m looking forward to returning in the future.

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